The last couple of NFL draft classes have had strong receiver groups, and these wide receiver rankings should reflect that trend continuing. While this class may not have the top-heavy talent, its depth makes up for it.
The last two NFL draft classes have given us the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Garrett Wilson, to name a few. Expectations are always high for WRs due to their ability to make plays right away. Sooner and sooner, we see them getting into advantageous positions team-wise and taking off from there.
In this 2023 draft class, though, these players may have more work to do. Not that they lack the talent necessarily, but because receiver rooms are becoming so deep. Each team wants three to four reliable weapons in the receiving game.
Does this help their value with the high demand? Of course. It would be best if you kept in mind that we are seeing an average of 32 receivers drafted per class since 2017. With 192 WRs drafted in the last five years, it has become more important than ever to recognize talent.
Obviously, not all 32 on average hit. That is why recognizing talent makes a big difference. One could argue that players can overcome environments much more easily as a receiver than in any other position. If they have the talent to overcome poor quarterback play or to set themselves apart from others, you have struck gold.
With that in mind, here are some early wide receiver rankings to help start your 2023 NFL draft journey.
1). Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Player Comp: Stefon Diggs
This name may be a shocker for some at number one, but it is much deserved. Boutte does so much with his body control when running his routes and with the ball in his hands. We have seen that trait do wonders for people in the NFL. He can use this to find success on day one in any NFL system with any quarterback passing him the ball.
2). Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Player Comp: Justin Jefferson
The name we expected at one appears at two in the WR rankings. Ohio State continues the steady pipeline into the NFL with Smith-Njigba entering the fold. While he graded out lower than where Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson did for me, he still has an NFL skill set to work with. His uber-athletic talent paired with a wide route tree has him in the driver’s seat of his future. He will get open this year and beyond; you just have to put the ball in his hands.
3). Jordan Addison, USC
Player Comp: Calvin Ridley
While his slim build may turn off some, he has proven he can handle the large workload. Addison loves to play the deep threat role, but he also has no issue working under and in-between coverages either. His versatility will be appealing to teams come April. For now, just enjoy him at his new home with Caleb Williams at USC in that offense.
4). Jermaine Burton, Alabama
Player Comp: Davante Adams
One of my favorite players in all of devy this season is going to be Burton. His route running and body control remind me so much of Davante Adams. We saw how much a guy like Aaron Rodgers trusted Adams for all their years together. After a year in Alabama, NFL teams will be clamoring for him. He is bound for a statistical explosion working in this new offense. Watch for him to rise up boards quickly.
5). Tyler Harrell, Alabama
Player Comp: Mecole Hardman
Another Alabama transfer player, Tyler Harrell, can be this year’s Jameson Williams. Where Williams worked better with his speed in open space, Harrell’s is a more straight-line approach. Once he adds more moves to his arsenal, which Alabama will add, then the sky is the limit with him.
6). A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
Player Comp: Chase Claypool
A physical mismatch, Perry is the main target for the new and improved Wake Forest passing attack. He uses his big frame, too; not every big receiver does. In the NFL, that is a skill set we don’t see as much anymore, especially in these rankings. He is one of three receivers over six feet in my top ten which should be an indicator. If a team wants a talented, big receiver, they will be few and far between this year.
7). Rakim Jarrett, Maryland
Player Comp: Deebo Samuel
The do-it-all man at receiver for Maryland, Jarrett has the size and versatility that we are seeing teams clamoring for. Ever since the world saw what Kyle Shannahan did with Deebo Samuel this past year, everyone has decided to project. They want to find who could be the next Samuel, which could very well be a Terrapin. Jarrett is used a lot on short-yardage schemes to get him the ball quickly so he can create. That doesn’t mean he can’t take the top off defenses either, and there is a lot to like with his overall game.
8). Dontay Demus, Maryland
Player Comp: Michael Pittman Jr.
The bigger compliment in the Maryland offense is lined up on the other hash marks in one Dontay Demus. Where Jarrett thrives in creating in space, Demus would instead physically dominate his defenders. He does a fine job at the moment, but doing it to NFL corners may prove challenging. He may be better off using his size and speed, but he tends to shy away from that for now. Keep an eye on Demus this year. The talent is undoubtedly present more often than not, and I just want to see more than a physical fastball in his rotation.
9). Quentin Johnston, TCU
Player Comp: Mike Williams
The biggest shocker in this top ten may be seeing Johnston this far down. I will give this prerequisite; I don’t think his QB play does him any favors. He very well could be a much better pro once he has a capable QB. For now, all he can do is use his size to overpower Big 12 corners while struggling in the underneath passing game. I want to see him show that he is more than okay getting physical underneath. Until then, he stays just within my top ten wide receiver rankings.
10). Josh Downs, North Carolina
Player Comp: T.Y. Hilton
Last but certainly not least in these WR rankings is the hard-working slot receiver from Chapel Hill. Downs isn’t used primarily as a slot receiver, but again, with his size and speed, that is where they like to scheme him. Can he utilize his long speed? Certainly. Would he rather be working on the more physical routes? Very much so, just like a certain Colt who has made a long career out of doing the very same thing. While T.Y. Hilton’s future remains uncertain, I believe in the ability of Downs to climb up boards this year.
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